Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.Mark, who has been with the business for over 20 years, is an ASE Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE L1 certification, and has an associates degree in business management.
Mark is also a writer for Motor Age Magazine and is the past secretary of the Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals, (AASP).
(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP)
Recently, I received a phone call from a somewhat frantic customer. My customer has just been involved in an automobile accident. He was ok but his car was seriously injured. I asked him if he needed transportation home from the scene, but he declined my offer since he was within walking distance of home. The police had already dispatched a towing service so my customer said he would tell the officer to have the car towed to our garage. Since it was near days end, I told my customer I would not be here when the car arrived but my father would be in the office for the next 3 hours and he would secure the car once it arrived. The next morning my customer called me again, this time to ask me how bad the damage was. I put him on hold and walked around the shop. Hmmm, no car. I explained that the car was not here and questioned him again as to what he told the police. Once again he told me of his conversation with the officer about having the car towed to us. He decided to call the police and find out where his car really was.
That's when the fun began. Fifteen minuets later, another call from the customer. "Guess What! The car is at XYZ Auto Body. Why would they have towed it there? I told them to bring it to you!" Since I couldn't think of a logical answer, he decided to call XYZ. I stared at the phone in a daze until it rang. "Mark your not going to believe this! That guy at XYZ wants $167 bucks to release my car. How can he charge that much? I'm not going to pay that, it's a rip-off!" No sooner did I get off the phone when over the intercom came, "Mark please come to the office." Waiting for me in the office was the owner of XYZ. Our conservation was short and sweet. "Listen", he said, "tell your crazy customer to get off my back. If you want the car, pay up, $167." Now it was my turn. "First of all, my customer wanted the car towed to us, why did you bring it to your shop anyway?" Now his reply: "I wanted to bring it here but I didn't think you would be open after 6pm." "Well, (I said), had you took the time to call you would have found out that we were here till 9pm." "Well that's that, you want the car or not?" Not at $167 dollars, besides you directly disobeyed the customers request to bring the car to us." Then came his final rebuttal: "Tell my lawyer" With that he left.
I thought a moment and went to the phone. The local police phone number would not go through so I called 911. I told the operator a brief summary of what had just transpired and told him that my customers car was being held against his will. Within 5 minuets 2 local city police officers were standing in my office. After a few phone calls between them and the body shop, a decision was reached. The body shop would tow the car to us and we would pay $60.00. Then he reneged on that. We would toe the car from their to here and pay him $60.00. (I guess he didn't want to burn any more fuel towing this car a second time). In the end we got the car, unfortunately not without the help of the police. The police made the judgment on the fact that the body shop owner deliberately went against the police officers order to bring the car to us in the first place. I'm not sure whether he was just plain storage fee hungry or whether the recent state towing rate deregulation made his head swell. In any event the customer was happy that the car was safely in the shop of his choice.